Home Major Junior CHL-OHL-WHL – When to sign: Undrafted Players

CHL-OHL-WHL – When to sign: Undrafted Players

by Jason Nadeau

When to Sign in the CHL?

WHEN should you sign in the OHL/WHL/CHL? I have put together an INNOVATIVE and ORIGINAL statistical examination of the WHL that analyses how many games are played by first and second year prospects. This should provide an interesting look at who actually gets ice-time and IF it is in your best interest to sign and play as soon as possible or to wait and explore other options.

Our second statistical analysis examines Games Played in the WHL by players in their first full season of eligibility. In this concluding article, we will focus on the 1991 (2007-08) & 1992 (2008-09) age groups and those players that fall into the group that I define as a ‘Regular’ Player. Quite simply, anyone drafted later then the 4th Rounds of their draft year or if they went undrafted are considered ‘Regular’. This grouping represents the majority of players out there.

Data Separated by Category Total Players GP AVG GP Per Player Total 1st & 2nd RD Players

Total 07-09 Players 201 (91 & 92) 6348 31.58 38/90

2007-08 Star Players 42 (1991) 2171 51.7 19/42
2007-08 Regular Players 50 (1991) 650 13

Total Players GP AVG GP Per Player Total 1st & 2nd RD Players
2008-09 Star Players 48 (1992) 2594 54.04 19/48
2008-09 Regular Players 61 (1992) 933 15.3

Here are the three Topics that we will look at today:
1) How Many Games does the Typical Regular Player Play in their first full WHL Season?
Regular Players (5th Round Draft Picks or Later) actually play significantly FEWER games then the AVERAGE of their age group. The average is 31.58 GP and the Regular Players cohort average a paltry 14.26 games played per first season.
WOW! Please stop for a second and really process this information.
14.26 games… that’s less then 1/3 of the entire WHL season. What possible benefit can you get from playing 14 games in such a key developmental year of growth? There is an argument that this exposure helps in potential advanced NHL draft positioning (I will explore this very issue soon). However, from a realistic objective standpoint, can you really conclude that 4-6 minutes of ice-time per night over 14 games is really your best course for all round growth and development? I think you need to step back and see this limited game time for what it is… a waste of time for players who fall into this category.
The main exception was: Stone (1992 – 5th RD) 56 GP/39 PTS. Not too Shabby!!!No one else was even close to this point total.

2) What about Undrafted Players?
There were a TOTAL of 4 undrafted players that played significant games, meaning above the average of 31.58 games played. None of those players had impact seasons with all four having marginal statistical outputs.
Over that 2 year period, the Highest Undrafted player (Rutkowski – 1992) had 64GP/15 PTS.
Now, if you fall into this final undrafted category, please take off the rose coloured glasses and instead focus on what’s important. You need to protect your playing rights, keep your options open and get the most effective amount of ice-time you can. Please do not let ego ruin your future options by pushing you into a losing situation where you give up your NCAA rights to be a ‘signed’ WHLer. I’ve seen it happen too many times to count and it is a bad situation any way you look at it. The odds of playing a regular shift are stacked against you IF you are an undrafted WHLer in your opportunities to play. This doesn’t mean that you can’t end up in the professional ranks nor get a quality education paid for by the Western League.

3) Who should I sign with in the WHL?
Clubs who had the most players on their rosters from this age group were: Edmonton (6 per Season – Bottom Feeder BOTH years);Tri-Cities(6 – 1st in Division BOTH years); Lethbridge (6 – 5th Overall & Made 2nd RD Playoffs); Kamloops (5.5 Per season – .500 Hockey Team Both Seasons). While Edmonton was a bottom feeder in the standings in both seasons and Kamloops was clearly rebuilding, Lethbridge and Tri-Cities were top flight clubs. I think it is safe to conclude that if you are going to sign with a rebuilding club, the data backs-up the argument that you will most likely get MORE games and ice-time to develop and showcase your skill set.

The teams that had the least amount of 1st year players were: Spokane (3 – 2nd & 7th Overall in League); Calgary (3 – Div & League Champions); Brandon (3.5 – 5th & 8th Overall); Moose Jaw (3.5 LAST PLACE & Made Playoffs). Spokane, Calgary and Brandon were clearly high-end teams and as such they did not utilise 1st year players very much. Moose Jaw was the anomaly as it clearly stunk AND did so with an older team.

Therefore, if you are drafted by an elite team, unless you were their coveted 1st rounder, you will most probably NOT get significant ice-time, games played NOR be in a position to put up a lot of points. So even if ‘THEY’ make promises, remember these statistics and give them sufficient weight in your final decision making process. You need to play and put up good numbers to get noticed at the next level.

Playing one or two years of Tier II Junior A or Junior B hockey isn’t the end of the world. In fact, statistically, in either of those leagues you may have a significantly better chance to actually play, showcase and develop your skills before you make the jump to the CHL. Good Luck!

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